Finding a venue for both a game night and a social event isn’t exactly easy. Sure playing video games online with your buddies is fun, but it doesn’t have the same feel as playing right next to someone, and even then it’s hard to get a large number of people to fit in one living room. We thought we were stuck with keeping our social events and our game nights separate. That is until we discovered a local video game cafe that had conquered that problem years ago. We reached out to Josh Lee, the general manager, to see if they’d be interested in hosting a Horrible Night Out and asked them a few questions about Net Heads.
Horrible Night: First of all, thank you for agreeing to host a Horrible Night Out for our readers, friends, and staff. Can you introduce Net Heads for those who do not know anything about it?
Josh Lee – Net Heads: Absolutely. Net Heads is a video game center (or LAN center if you’re familiar with that term) focusing on multiplayer Xbox and PC gaming in an upscale and social environment. We have 45 individual game stations, all networked and with internet access (and Live Gold accounts), and over 75 different games ranging from Halo: Reach and Black Ops to League of Legends and StarCraft II. If the game is fun and multiplayer, we probably have it. You can bring your own games, save, and profiles in, too.
So, you come in with your friends and fire up your favorite game and suddenly it’s a party. Even if you come in as an individual there is usually a game or two you can jump into. Our regular customers on the whole are very open to others joining their games.
We make it cheap to game: $3 per hour, or $10 to play all day.
HN: What is your role at Net Heads?
JL: In one word, I am the manager. I wear many hats, though. I run the day to day operations, help develop and deliver new products and services and I am the IT department.
HN: How did Net Heads get started?
JL: Back around 1998, the owner Bill Noel, having just sold his previous software company, decided to try something new. He used to set up a LAN in his house to play Quake with his 5 sons. There were only a handful of places at the time that we would today call video game centers, none of which had proven themselves. He took a big risk and started building what would turn out to be a very special place and second home for a lot of gamers in the Indianapolis area. Net Heads opened in the fall of 1999, and we are still going strong.
HN: How did you find out about and start working at Net Heads?
JL: Summer of ’99 I had decided to quit my job at an ISP in southern Illinois, and the community college I was attending was teaching me squat. I needed a change of scenery and my sister invited me to come stay with her in Indy. One day she took me on a little sight-seeing tour which ended up in Broad Ripple (home of our first location). We drove by Net Heads which had just opened, and I was floored by the melding of tech and design. When we got back home, I looked the place up online, saw Bill was hiring and turned in a resume the next day. I started the following week as a glorified janitor. I kept getting more responsibilities and eventually ended up managing the place. I will always be eternally grateful to Bill for that initial opportunity. He’s a great guy and you’ll never find two people with a better working relationship than us. I love my job.
HN: Any tips for first time visitors to Net Heads?
JL: Don’t play by yourself. Either ask others to jump into their game, or bring some friends with you. Our place is built around social multiplayer gaming. You can play with yourself at home.
HN: Why do gamers come to play at Net Heads?
JL: We provide an experience you can’t get at home. How many people do you know with 16 networked xbox’s in their living room? Also, for many of our gamers we are their home away from home. Not unlike Cheers, everybody knows your name here. Our staff and customers are friendly and love to talk about and play games of all kinds. For you older guys it’s everything you loved about the arcade or comic shop as a kid, but without the stank bowling alley carpet or loitering jerks. For our younger gamers, we are providing that experience for the first time. I think we are carrying the torch well.
HN: What other game activities is Net Heads involved in?
JL: Besides our regular “walk in and play” business, we offer birthday parties, summer camps, tournaments, leagues, private rentals, corporate outings, team building, themed events, and even have racing simulators we take outside the facility.
HN: Is Net Heads kid friendly?
JL: Absolutely. We have a 10 year old age minimum, but we have a ton of 10-14 year-olds that come visit us after school and on saturday and sunday afternoons. We think our place is very safe and the environment is suitable for that age range. Many parents drop their kids off and go run errands. We don’t have any behavioral problems due to a vigilant staff and how well the kids stay engaged in the games and with their friends. We also do a great job of working with the parents to make sure the kids are playing games that they deem content-appropriate.
HN: What is your go to solo game at the moment? Multiplayer?
JL: I always have a giant stack of games to play at any given moment, and not nearly enough time to go through them all. Last night I finally got around to playing and finishing Vanquish, though. God, that was fun. It was like a love letter to all my favorite modern action games and a hilarious parody at the same time. It better get a sequel. On the multiplayer side, I’m always down for a game of Left 4 Dead 2 or some Minecraft. I liked pretending to shoot zombies and building forts as a kid, and I still do now.
HN: Which Horrible Night staff member are you going to school first?
JL: Justin, I know you’re a a fan of Worms like myself, and as we seem to be a dying breed I’m sure you’re down for a game with anyone willing. Fortunately for you I’m the most ninja-ropin’, dynamite droppin’, banana blastin’ son-of-a-gun around, so you can learn a few tricks while your worms are turning into little gravestones!